Day 29: Four weeks! Bumps and beeps in the night…

Last night I went to bed exhausted, but far from having a nice relaxing sleep it ended up being quite a busy night. My steering footplate (which is sort of on a swivel, so I can steer the boat with my foot as it is attached to the rudder by lines) kept banging into the other footplate, and nothing I tried seemed able to stop it. Usually I can get the tension in the lines just about right to hold it, but not last night. After numerous readjustments, attempts to go to sleep, further readjustments etc, I finally dropped off to sleep despite the noise.

Shortly after I fell asleep I was woken by the high-pitched alarm of the AIS, which alerts me to ships in the area. There was a cargo ship headed towards me, directly on a collision path (‘accuracy: high’, as the system comfortingly puts it). As usual, I contacted it on the VHF, but this time couldn’t get any reply. Through the darkness I began to feel and then hear the rumble of engines. After about 20 stressful minutes of trying to raise a response, I finally got someone to reply, just about as their lights started to come into view through the darkness. They passed me really quite close – I could see the lights on different decks of the ship, and I was really struck by how loud the engines were.

I lay down again, and just as I was starting to relax I felt and heard Something bang into the side of the boat. I think it was the same Something as the night before, and again it hung around for a bit, banged into the side of the boat a few times, and sort of brushed along the side as well. I lay very still in my sleeping bag, ready to leap up if necessary, but really hoping it would just go away. It did, but it took me a while to get to sleep again after that.

One of the things I’m looking forward to back in ‘normal’ life is being able to properly relax when sleeping. Here I’ve always got half an ear open, and am often woken by messages coming through on the VHF, particularly big waves or things slamming the boat, and all the knocks, taps and gurgles which sound so loud from inside the cabin.

Today has been similar to yesterday – hot, sunny and calm. It’s been slow going, but I’ve made some good western progress and been in good spirits. The wind has picked up this evening though, so I’m trying to withstand the eastward pull overnight…

Calm, sunny lunchtime
Calm, sunny lunchtime

12 thoughts on “Day 29: Four weeks! Bumps and beeps in the night…

  1. Wow scary biscuits! You must be exhausted, however so glad you are safe. I can always remember watching my favourite ever film…..’The Dove’ true story about Robin Lee Graham who sailed across the world in a sloop called ‘The Dove’ when he was 17. Recalling the moment something very similar happened to him which as a lone sailer / rower must be an incredibly scary thing to go through.
    So much looking forward to all your posts Elsa, we are all behind your every oar stroke, You are doing amazingly well.
    Wonder what the bump in the night can be, whatever it is I feel it is looking after you.

    ‘Keep it going my Heroine’
    Jo Macdonald


    1. You are so brave and we are all so with you in your pull to the west. We agree with Jo, you are our heroine. Keep strong ! We keep spreading the word of your amazing perseverance in this grand challenge. Liz and Mervyn Miles


  2. Well I like the phrase ‘scary biscuits’ so I say the same thing as Jo McDonald! Scary Biscuits! I can just imagine the crew of the big ship getting it into their heads that there’s this English lady out there in the dark rowing across the ocean!!!! Unbelievable!
    Glad you managed to rouse them at last, and also it’s fascinating to hear how you are being checked out by the ocean’s ambassadors – presumably they use their body to try to work out what you are – or rather what Darien is.
    I hope you do manage to get some sleep – perhaps it comes in intense interludes… I predict when you get back on land, not only will the world rock and sway (common experience after sailing), and that will last for days or even weeks, but you will also find dry, static, non-moving, fixed, silent beds impossible to sleep in! Ha!
    Big hugs as ever, dear Elsa. Thanks for your updates and well done!
    Love from sunny/breezy Fav


  3. Elsa you are still doing so well. We love reading your posts, they really show how tough the challenge is and how well you are doing overcoming all your difficulties. I spoke to your Mum the other day to see how she was doing….sounds as if she’s been really busy as usual. I keep praying for the trade winds to pick you up and carry you forward to your destination. Keep going Elsa
    Andrea x


  4. greetings dear Pilgrim of the Pacific, just wanted to finally put some words to the feelings of encouragement and living with you (dutch expression) i’ve been having when reading your blogs. I sometimes think during the day that right now you our out there in a tiny boat on a huge ocean, and i get a very alive and alert feeling 🙂 sending love and good wishes xxx


  5. Another full on day, so much going on and to deal with, you are amazing. The near miss sounds scary but you sound like you have your drill well worked out. The Something that goes bump! I loved this bit I read it around in a Piglet voice for Rose. I’m glad you had a calm and sunny day after all that. Our day in Siena was beautiful, inside the Duomo was just stunning. Cheers Mark


  6. Elsa, I just want to let you know how inspirational you are to my 13 year old daughter, Fern. She suffers from Chronic Fatigue, and today she climbed 3 mountains in Wales, on a school trip. I told her that if Elsa Hammond can row the Pacific on her own, then she could climb a mountain! It gave her courage to know that her cousin was doing so brilliantly, facing all that danger and being so determined. What an example you are! So proud of you! XXXXX


  7. Elsa! I just can’t believe how well you are doing. You keep going on despite all those scary hobnobs and bourbons. I often check in on you when I can’t sleep at night… Fool that I am as its rarely a calming image you portray. It certainly does make me feel pathetic for not being able to sleep in my comfy, dry, still and peaceful bed though. Much love and wishing that good weather and favourable winds on you. Xxx


  8. Wow! Any one event is enough for most people to manage during the day, let alone all this at night time, in the dark, on your own, is utterly amazing, certainly a moment of “keep calm and carry on”. I wonder if your friend “bump in the night” has revisited?! We are following you as our bedtime read every night, along with our friends who left 1wk ago 1/7/14 to drive from Amersham to Sydney, via the Stans, Iran and China! Fraught with many potential issues, mainly political. At least you don’t have that.
    We wish you well and hope the winds will change in your favour very soon, it’s certainly time they did. Helen & Nick
    PS Oh! and keep smiling!


  9. Elsa! My goodness I remember that conversation we had about the two things that worried you a) sea creatures (I won’t say the name!) and b) big ships! You’ve just encountered them both and as always are taking it in your stride. We are all so proud of you. I am sharing your page like a mad lady. Thinking about you lots and sending you many positive thoughts. Keep going!!!!! Love Amy x x x


  10. Possibly it is a turtle knocking on the boat to say Hello. Roz loved seeing them – gentle inhabitants of the oceans. Very best wishes, Rita S.


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